Sunday, January 08, 2006

Lying With Numbers at the Montreal Gazette

Khadija Bennis, whose brother was gunned down by Montreal police on December 1st in what looks like a case of racial profiling gone wrong (when does it ever go right?), is quoted in today’s Montreal Gazette saying that she fears police will sweep her brother’s death under the carpet.

Given this fear of a young man’s needless death being covered up and forgotten, it is instructive to review how the Gazette has dealt with this case so far.


After initially running brief police accounts of what happened immediately after Mohamed Anass Bennis’ death in early December (on pages A7 and A10), they did run one story which actually acknowledged that the Bennis family was having trouble believing the cops’ crazy version of events (on page A11) - but then nothing at all until this morning.

That’s because yesterday, as i wrote in my previous post about the police killing, there was a large demonstration demanding a public inquiry and “sensitivity training” for the police. I think i have a good idea of how many people were there as i have (sadly) gone to a number of such demonstrations in my life, and at yesterday’s i started at the back and then walked up to the front, turning around several times to take photos. I was there at 10:30am when it started and left shortly after noon, while speeches were still being made. My estimate is that there were between 1,500 and 2,000 people there.

Given that yesterday was the coldest day so far this winter – minus seventeen degrees – such a number constitutes a very impressive turnout. I can’t remember so large a demonstration against a police murder since Marcellus Francois was shot in the head for being Black back in 1991 (and seeing as he was killed in July those demos were in warmer weather). For a similarly large wintertime demo protesting a police murder, you’d have to go back to Anthony Griffin (who was also Black and was also shot in the head by a racist cop) back in 1987.

[There have of course been other large demos organized against the police, most notably the annual International Day Against Police Brutality protests that have so often ended in mass arrests – but these were organized and attended by left activists and were not in reaction to a specific police crime, and as such i think are different than the kind of protest we saw yesterday.]

So how did the Montreal Gazette cover yesterday’s demo? How did they describe the largest protest of its kind to have taken place in almost twenty years?

Page A2, with the smallest of photos; the article by Ann Carroll began: “As many as 200 people rallied outside Montreal city hall in the bitter cold yesterday to demand an independent inquiry into the fatal police shooting of Mohamed Annas Bennis on Dec. 1.”

“As many as 200 people.”


Like Ms. Bennis said, sweeping it under the carpet.

And look: the Montreal Gazette brought its own broom.

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  1. Shit, how did this totally escape my attention? Granted, I haven't had much time to scour the Gazoo lately, but having been around this town long enough to remember Anthony Griffin, I'm amazed this isn't getting more play (and the Gazette isn't the only culprit). I have contacts in the Global newsroom. I haven't been watching it lately, so I don't know how much they've covered this, but I think it's high time I checked up on it with them.

    Great post (this and previous). Keep it up.

  2. You are right that the Gazette is not alone in ignoring this police killing. In fact, they almost certainly would be forced to cover it with more integrity if any of the other papers started doing so. I just focus on Montreal's only english-language daily because it's the paper that gets delivered to our place every morning...
    That said, although the Journal de Montreal did run only one paragraph on page 6 about Saturday's demonstration, at least they stated there were around 1,000 people - i still think that figure is pretty low, but not being a crowd-countin' expert i'll acknowledge it is possible.
    That the Gazette put the figure at 200 can only mean that they didn't send anyone to actually cover the event, or else the reporter lied, or else there was a typo and they dropped a zero (though no retraction to be spoted tofay - and i did email Ann Carroll a copy of my posting).

  3. Thank you for your efforts.

  4. The reason the Gazette is ignoring this police related death is that it was 100% justified. Believe me if there was any hint of wrong doing they would have been all over it as they should. This arab nut case came out of the blue and attacked the police officer with a knife. He tried to cut his neck and leg. The cop just instictively shot back in self defense. Don't belive me if you like but the whole incident was filmed by a Bell Canada security tape near by. This is an open and shut case. The only sad thing about this incident was that we almost lost another law enforcement officer as happened a few weeks earlier in Laval. It is good to question the police, there has to be transperancy. But when some nutcase attacks a cop and to save his life he shoots back. Then we vilifiy the officer something is wrong. If you doubt what I say just go back to where the shooting took place and find the Bell Canada building and you will see the camera. Cameras have caught police brutality in the past but at least this time we will enventually see that in this case the cop just did what he was trained to do, save lives....his own....

  5. "Anonymous" your post just does not make any sense.
    Your evidence for the fact that the victim was a "nutcase"? The "fact" that he attacked police.
    Your evidence that he attacked police? Well, the police say he did.
    Why do you believe the police? Because the incident was filmed.

    Which brings us to our punchline: have you seen the films? If you have, you must either work in that building or else be a cop yourself, because the police have refused to release them to the public!

    That is a bit part of why the Bennis family is so upset. Allegations that make no sense are made about their son, who is now dead, the incident was apparently filmed, but the people who killed him (i.e. your beloved cops) refuse to show them the film. The police are not acting with anything like transparency.

    And you trust these fuckers?!?!?

    Oh yeah, and don't even get me started about how this justifies the Gazette reporter writing that 200 people were at a demo because that's the number she saw when she admits only showing up after it was over!

  6. It doesn't make sense to you now. But in due time when the video is shown to the public you will understand. The police are human and hence imperfect, but in this case the police officer was justified. I ask you this. If you had a gun and someone rushed you slashing your neck then your leg what would you do?

  7. Quick question "Anonymous": have you seen the videos yourself?

    If so, are you a cop?